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“STOP CALLING IT PORN!” – Flickr Is Now Charging for NSFW


STOP CALLING IT PORN. This was the subject line of an email Flickr sent out recently. The press release says they are providing a safe space for ALL photographers to view what is typically deemed as pornography. The platform has failed to define what is risqué in its effort to offer inclusion by touting it isn’t porn. But they will be charging a fee of $8.25 monthly, or $72 annually, to upload content with their Pro account into what it considers the grey area.

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Personally speaking, I left Flickr years ago because of the community. I’d upload fairly tame images of young models that were met by a community of voyeuristic members. The experience made me feel like it wasn’t a safe space anymore. I transitioned to Instagram with everybody else instead.

Editor-In-Chief Chris Gampat wrote a few years back about several NSFW groups on Flickr dedicated to sex and sexual acts. Upon clicking one of those groups from the article, I received a 403 error. There was a prompt to create an account and get permission to join the group. It’s safe to say that nothing has changed. Conversely, they’re like a time vessel that has remained untampered. The only difference is now you can pay for it and save yourself the annoyance of having to click on an image deemed Adult Content. Flickr is choosing to double down and capitalize on the questionable content.

I typed NSFW into the search engine on Flickr’s Welcome Page. Numerous images of NSFW content in varying degrees of nudity and exposed genitalia popped into the feed. They had not been flagged as explicit or adult content. And I didn’t even have to create an account.

Several of those images were sexual acts captured on a smartphone from the man’s perspective. The poorly lit explicit images were straight-up porn. Not even portrait mode or a fake haze filter could change that blatant fact and push it even to the edge of art. For argument’s sake, we’re going to go by the actual definition in the dictionary.

The Oxford Dictionary defines pornography as printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings

There is a difference between risqué and pornography. A fair amount of images in that search result were flat-out pornographic. If Flickr doesn’t want to call it porn, they need to set a standard and better educate members.

Pornography Is Not Art

Pornography is not art. The image creator needs to consider angles, lighting, mood, emotion, and styling to make it art. The medium of photography used makes a huge difference when mixed with the elements mentioned above. The flash of a Polaroid in a poorly lit room can instantly cheapen a boudoir image. A cheap iPhone photo capturing a sex act while focusing on genitalia exudes nothing but what it is. It’s a cheap rendition of pornography.

The same photography that was shocking and edge-pushing 30, 40, and 50 years ago is extremely common-place today even in safe, regulated places. What was once taboo is now widely accepted.[…]– Don MacAskill, CEO of Flickr

Thirty, forty, and fifty years ago, this type of photography was predominantly dictated and captured by men. Pinup photography was initially created using a man’s definition of sexy. And it being a man’s world, women needed their approval to feel sexy. Sensuality must have been a foreign concept. Perhaps it still is.

This blanket statement is very disheartening, especially when we are still fighting for women’s equality. We’ve gone from the adage of sex sells while objectifying women to celebrating them. Much of today’s progress is because women have a seat at the table. Women have stood up and faced their own #MeToo stories. They have also stood up for being more than mere sexual subjects, which has helped change the narrative. We should continue marching forward and not racing backward.

A Safe Space for Who?

The press release focuses on creating a safe space for like-minded photographers to learn and grow together. I can’t help but wonder whether or not every woman on the platform’s NSFW photostream gave proper permission.

Flickr claims to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding consent, but how does the platform verify consent? Will they require a model release? What about continued consent if the relationship between the subject and photographer changes? Does the subject know that their partner intended to upload it to the safe-haven of Flickr? Seeing as how the most popular camera brand on Flickr is still the iPhone, did all of them know they were being photographed in some positions? Plus, so many of the ones focused on themselves were technically selfies. Since when are selfies art? And why are you charging for this type of content when they can get it anywhere else for free? There are so many questions.

Then you look at the fact that many of the high-up positions at Flickr are occupied by men. It appears that a man crafted the press release. Did your team even consider a woman’s perspective? And if not, are they even valued within that community? The lack of input from women in this narrative compounded with charging for risqué content makes this press release feel gross.

It’s a private space for a group of predominantly men to pay to feel safe about being pervs. Flickr’s Community Guidelines specifically state Don’t be that guy. Yet, the platform gives a safe space for many to come together and be precisely that.

Final Thoughts

If you want it to be art, you have to make an honest effort to shoot art. The intention has to change. Focus on the connection, the mood, and the sensuality of the moment instead of the act. Shoot from a perspective that highlights the subject instead of one that is voyeuristic. Substituting a pair of lingerie instead of otherwise exposed privates up in the air is still implying sex. Objectification and exploitation remain the same.

Learn how to capture the emotion behind the image without turning it into eroticism. Check out our Sensual Vs. Sexual series. This is one instance where having hands doing something will not work. The moment you have visible hands sexually engaged it crosses over into pornographic territory. There are plenty of ways to capture the beauty of the naked body without sex.

Take into consideration that not all intimately private images are meant to be shared with the masses. And by all means, make sure you have consent and clearly communicate the intentions of how you will share the images afterward. Please understand there are tons of other identifiable markers that can identify someone besides their face.

As for Flickr, we’ll stop calling it porn when you stop cultivating it and establish clearly defined parameters. The antithesis is private groups that focus solely on sex, sexual fetishes, and sharing locations. The intention behind your message needs to change to gain full support. You might be better off introducing an exclusive platform for these explicit groups. And if you do, please make more of an effort to verify consent.

Separation of content might entice photographers who initially left to come back and share actual art. A bit of education geared towards less objectification and sexualization would go a long way. It will create a feeling of confidence in your users, and that safe space will allow for true inclusion. That and a significant update to your platform is a sure way to attain your goal of Flickr Forever. Also, it would be great to see more women and other identifying individuals in decision-making seats on your platform. Their voices would be instrumental in catapulting the platform forward.






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